Hey guys! This is the last chapter of Circus Dreams; but don't worry. I'm already working on a new story that centers around the whole team.
The room was not, by any means, normal.
It was large and spacious with bookshelves pressed against the wall. In the center of the room was an enormous golden birdcage. Locked inside of it was Robin. He dressed in civilian clothes and was lying on his side. One of his arms was slipped through the bars and hung limply. His skin was ashen gray. He was breathing, but it was labored and gasping. His eyes were closed. M'gann was hit with the realization that this was what she had been looking for. This was Robin's consciousness.
"…he looks bad." Artemis said, her voice shocked.
"But we have found him." Kaldur replied. He felt relief that they had found Robin before Martian Manhunter returned to wake them. "That is what is important."
Bruce moved forward without a word. M'gann felt that after all she'd been through, she should help to bring him back into the waking world. She watched Bruce reach through the bars and gently pull Robin out of the cage. The bars were large and spaced widely enough for him to slip him through. M'gann wondered why Robin hadn't left the cage himself. But perhaps he was too sick, too injured. Robin's adoptive father set him down on the ground. The boy took another gasping breath, but didn't wake.
The team moved over cautiously and knelt down beside Robin. Wally frowned, concerned. For a moment they each wondered if they would be able to wake him up at all.
"Robin," M'gann said gently, "Dick…you need to wake up." She reached forward and brushed his bangs across his forehead, an odd motherly gesture that surprised even her. "Wake up…"
Wally joined in. "Yeah, Rob. Kind of don't want to be stuck in your head for the rest of my life."
The other team members spoke, softly trying to wake him. Bruce squeezed his hand. "Dick, I will lose all respect for you if you quit now."
It was as if someone had said the magic words. Robin's eyes opened. And suddenly everything disappeared.
Robin became aware of pain all across his body. His arms, his chest, his legs. What happened? He couldn't remember. Slowly he opened his eyes. For whatever reason he didn't recognize the room. Robin's heart jumped into his throat. Was he in a hospital? God, he hated hospitals. Hated them. In his mind, hospitals were places where the people you loved went to die. But then he saw Red Tornado standing guard in the corner. Through the open door he saw Red Arrow speaking with his former mentor in hushed tones. The whole place had the distinct feeling of a sickroom. Slowly he realized, with horror, it was his sickroom.
Robin sat up with great effort. Everything screamed in protest, but he ignored the pain. Red Arrow and Green Arrow looked over at him from the doorway.
"I see M'gann has been successful in her efforts." Red Tornado said.
"…what?" Robin glanced around the room. He was shocked to see his entire team lying in beds around him. Most of them did not look very hurt or sick. Some of them had casts or slings or burns…but nothing too crippling. So why were they in here too? Robin was startled- and extremely frightened- to see Bruce in one of the beds as well. What was going on here? "What's happening? Why are they…what am I…"
"The disarming of the weapon went awry, causing an explosion." Red Tornado explained. "Your teammates were injured, but you were the closest and took the brunt of the blow. You were in critical condition when the team arrived back at Mount Justice, and Aqualad was forced to resuscitate you shortly after the explosion."
Critical condition? Resuscitate? Robin stared at him in shock. But, slowly, the memories came back…
He'd been disarming the bomb without any problem. And then suddenly everything stopped working. The machine began a short countdown to self-destruct. Robin had managed to yell, "GET DO-" And that was all he got out. He'd crossed his arms over his face in time. That kept him from getting any burns on his face. But his forearms had been badly burned. He remembered pain, and an odd sensation…and then nothing.
"Robin! You're awake!" Suddenly M'gann was up, climbing out of bed. She hurried over and hugged him tight. A sharp stab of pain went through his body. He cried out and M'gann released him hurriedly. "Sorry, sorry! I'm just…I'm so happy…I thought…"
The other team members were climbing out of their beds. And, Robin was happy to see, Bruce was getting up too.
"Alright, everyone out." Bruce said firmly. "Robin needs to rest. You can talk to him later." He glanced at M'gann. "I'll explain everything."
Reluctantly, the rest of the team left. Robin watched Red Tornado leave behind them. The door closed and he began to speak. "I'm sorry, I don't know what happened, I thought I had the weapons situation under control and-"
Bruce held up his hand and Robin stopped talking. "Relax. Lay down. You've been in a coma for a few weeks. You shouldn't be exerting this much energy." He set a gentle hand on Robin's shoulder and eased him back down. "Now…you were under for a week or two when M'gann got an…idea. There is a practice on Mars where trained individuals will enter the minds of the unconscious and bring them back into the waking world. The team and M'gann were adamant that it was at least tried, and I allowed it."
The weight of his words began to sink in. M'gann had been inside his head…suddenly his heart began to beat faster. How much had she seen in there? "Why…why did you let her…?"
"Because I was afraid." Bruce said bluntly. "I thought we were going to lose you. Something had to be done."
All he could do was lay there and look up at Bruce. Bruce? Afraid? That had to violate some law of nature.
"After a few weeks, you almost died. Your heart stopped. Kid Flash saved you and M'gann, who would have most likely perished if your mind crumbled around her." Bruce continued on without missing a beat. "M'gann accidentally pulled in Conner, Artemis, and Kid Flash in a moment of weakness. The League then began to debate the safety of this mission. It was decided we would send for Martian Manhunter to come wake M'gann, thus waking your teammates. But Kaldur and I also went under until, at least, Martian Manhunter returned. We had to try."
Not just M'gann. All of them. Everyone on his team saw his deepest thoughts, fears…
"What…what did they see?" Robin asked. His voice was quavering and he couldn't understand why.
"Not much…the manor. Our identities are out the window; but that can't be helped." Bruce looked him in the eye. "They saw your uncle…and…that's it. M'gann, obviously, saw far more. It would not surprise me if she knows your entire history at this point."
Robin got the feeling Bruce was holding something back, but he didn't press. He was too tired. Whatever the aftermath of this would be, he could deal with it after a nice long nap. His eyes slipped closed. Before he fell asleep he felt Bruce squeeze his hand. Robin returned it and then fell into a deep sleep.
It was another three days before Robin was deemed well enough for the team to visit. M'gann decided to see him alone. She felt that she needed to be honest about what she had seen and speak to him about it. So she slipped into Robin's room early in the morning after he'd eaten his breakfast.
"Oh. Hi, M'gann." Robin's tone was odd as she walked in. Bad sign. She came over and sat down on the edge of his bed.
"Hi." M'gann said shyly. She looked Robin over. There was an awkward silence in between the two of them. M'gann struggled to find a way to start the conversation. Finally she managed, "I'm sorry."
"Sorry? For what?" Robin asked, staring at her.
"For…everything. You've been through a lot…and I'm sorry I went into your mind." M'gann still couldn't believe half of what she'd seen. She thought about Robin's family and shuddered briefly. Never- not in her wildest dreams- could she have predicted something like that. Whenever she pondered over Robin's past, she just assumed that Batman was his father and had been raised to continue the 'family business.' She said again, "I'm sorry."
"M'gann, you saved my life." Robin said with a slight frown. "I was going to die if you didn't."
"Still…some of the things I saw…" M'gann gulped. "What…what were those skeletons?"
Robin seemed to sit up a little straighter at the mention of the word. "Skeletons? With the broken bones…?"
The Martian girl nodded. "I ran into them twice…"
"I…I used to have nightmares. Reoccurring ones, right after the…incident. The skeletons were usually in them." Robin explained. He stared down at his lap, slightly uncomfortable. He'd never discussed his nightmares with anyone but the therapist Bruce had forced him to go to until he was ten. "The therapist said it was survivor's guilt. My family…they always did our finale without a net. And they never let me join in because I was so young…but that night my parents were actually considering it, and decided not to let me at the last minute." The young boy swallowed hard. "I could have been out there with them. And for a long time, I thought I should have been…"
His teammate stared at him with sympathy. "I saw some of your memories…about your family. They seemed like good people. They didn't deserve that…and neither did you."
Robin didn't respond for a few moments. Finally he said, "It's kind of a relief. Not having to cover up my identity anymore. I told Wally without Batman knowing, but that's it." He met her eyes and managed a small smile. "So what was it like? Inside my head?"
M'gann regaled him with descriptions of what she had seen. Sometimes Robin laughed or smiled. Other times he sat very quietly and listened with a somber look on his face. It felt odd, describing someone's own mind to them. But she supposed that Robin couldn't get access to his subconscious that easily and look around for himself. When she told him about the frozen room, Robin went stiff. M'gann said, "What was that, anyway?"
"My uncle…he survived the fall. It left him paralyzed from the neck down." Robin explained slowly. "And for a while it looked like he might pull through…but when I was ten he died. I just remember being in that freaking hospital, crying…it felt like everything was freezing and I couldn't make sense of anything. It was like losing my family all over again. He was all I had left, and then…"
She didn't question him about anything else after that. M'gann could guess the meanings. But it wasn't fair for her to force Robin to relive those memories while he was recovering.
Their teammates' rehabilitation and training began the next month. Dick insisted he was well enough to participate, but was restricted to doing simple tasks. M'gann and Conner were the only ones who had not been badly injured and continued their training as normal. The team did their best not to mention whatever they'd seen inside of Dick's head. But the mood between them had definitely changed.
"I've lost a lot of flexibility." Dick grumbled. He was standing on his hands, trying to do a split at the same time. Usually it would have been easy for him. But after so many weeks of being injured and bedridden, it was difficult.
"Don't push yourself, Dick." Kaldur admonished him gently.
"I'm not." Dick replied. It still gave him a start whenever one of his teammates called him by his name. It wasn't something he was used to yet. The boy straightened his legs in the air and then dipped back into a backbend. Usually it didn't hurt at all. But now there was a painful tug towards his lower back. He gritted his teeth and flopped down. "Ok, ow."
Kaldur walked over and offered him a hand. He helped his friend up and smiled kindly. "Have patience, my friend. Your skills will return to you in time."
"I don't have time." Dick said with a slight frown.
"Of course you do. You have plenty of time." Kaldur told him. He smiled again and walked off to start his sparring match with Conner.
As Dick began his stretches again- more cautiously this time- M'gann floated over. Dick looked down and avoided her eyes. He still wasn't sure what she'd seen exactly. She could have easily left something out to spare his feelings. Dick hoped she would pass by to go watch Conner. But instead she sat down beside him.
"Dick, are you mad at me?" she asked quietly.
Dick looked towards her, surprised. "No, of course not."
"You haven't been talking to me. Since…you know." M'gann stared at him with wide, worried brown eyes. "I saw a lot of stuff and…I just want to tell you that it doesn't make me dislike you at all. It made me respect you. You've been through so much…and…"
"I'm not mad at you, M'gann. I guess it's just kind of…unsettling that you guys saw everything in my head…" Dick explained. "It's an idea I'll have to get used to."
M'gann nodded in understanding. "Do you…remember anything from it?"
The younger boy shook his head. "My dreams have been weird ever since, though. Sometimes you guys are there. Though I think other times I've been dreaming of Mars. And these white monster things." He didn't notice how M'gann's breath caught in her throat. Dick shrugged. "Maybe your mind left something behind?"
"Yeah…maybe." M'gann said, looking away. In her mind she could hear the mischievous little Robin's voice: "You don't think your secrets are safe, do you? You can see us, and we can see you. Give and take. Quid pro quo, Clarice. It works both ways."
All of her secrets were hidden in Robin's subconscious now.
"I'm sure it's nothing." M'gann told him quickly. She smiled at him. "Are you going to be ok?"
"Yeah, I'm going to be fine." Dick returned the smile. "I don't have anything to hide anymore."
M'gann wished she could stay the same. Even after all of this, she still couldn't bring herself to reveal her own secrets.